The Importance of Study Abroad Advising
As more and more colleges integrate study abroad experiences into their curriculum, advisors play a crucial role in encouraging students to pursue overseas learning opportunities. They may also help them choose a program that fits their academic and career goals.
Effective education abroad advising helps students determine whether, when, where, how, and why to study abroad. In addition to helping them find the right program, it also supports them through their educational experience and beyond.
1. Educate the student
Ideally, students should start planning their study abroad experience during freshman year, but it is never too late. They should be aware of the many organizational steps that need to be taken—visa, plane ticket, health insurance, preparation courses, etc.—and be prepared to take on a substantial amount of research themselves.
Students may need to meet with a department and/or study abroad adviser to ensure that the courses they wish to take abroad will be evaluated and approved for credit. The advisors can explain how they will fit into a student’s academic plan and also address any concerns about financial and academic matters.
Students can be reassured by the fact that their advisers are well trained in advising students on education abroad. Advisors can use open-ended questions and advising models like appreciative advising to help students make informed choices, and manage their expectations while maximizing their learning and development during their time away from campus.
2. Counsel the student
The goal of education abroad advising is to help students determine if, when, where, how and why to study abroad. Advisors can work with students to evaluate program options in order to meet the student’s academic goals and objectives, help identify if studying abroad will fit their degree plan, resolve course sequencing issues, and answer questions about financing, visas, health insurance, and preparation courses.
Advisors can also provide support for their advisees as they navigate the emotional and logistical aspects of studying abroad. Students often have fears about safety, financial limitations, and course credit transfer; advisors can allay these concerns by asking students to share their worries, reassuring them that these concerns are normal, and providing factual information to alleviate the student’s anxiety.
Faculty and advisors can also advocate for their students by promoting study abroad opportunities to their classes, mentioning these options during advising sessions and in class presentations. Similarly, many study abroad offices host alumni panels to allow students to hear first-hand from other students’ experiences.
3. Encourage the student
Nationally, student interest in study abroad remains high, but participation lags behind. Many factors contribute to this gap, including financial concerns, academic requirements, and perceived barriers. Effective advising can help bridge the gap.
Student A was able to go abroad because her parents were supportive of the experience. She also benefited from the university’s support systems and processes. Student B, on the other hand, did not go because she worried it would delay her graduation and did not receive encouragement or guidance from anyone at the university about the potential benefits of the experience.
Advisors can encourage students to study abroad by promoting programs that are cost-effective and aligned with their academic and professional goals. They can also encourage students to investigate scholarships, which are often available for certain types of study abroad programs. Additionally, they can help students meet academic requirements by explaining how credits earned abroad may be applied to their degrees. They can also direct students to SUNY’s Office of International Education to assist with financial planning.
4. Facilitate the student’s decision
The student’s decision to participate in study abroad is a significant one. Advisors can assist in this process by ensuring that students choose the best program for their academic and personal goals. They can also help with the necessary paperwork and by encouraging students to fully engage in the pre-departure process.
The survey results indicate that finances play a significant role in whether or not students decide to study abroad. Financial aid advisors can be helpful in providing clear information about scholarships, tuition remission and other forms of financial assistance for education abroad programs. This information should be clearly communicated during advising appointments and on departmental websites.
Ultimately, study abroad advising is about empowering students to take charge of their own learning and development, both inside and outside the classroom. These are skills that employers value and will need in an increasingly interconnected world. Effective advising will support students in developing confidence, independence, adaptability and intercultural competence.